Social Spotlight: The Law of ‘REALationships’
When I first wrote "The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing" for Retail Online Integration as a blog post back in 2009, I never realized the stir it would cause in the social media marketing world. I've been told over the years that the laws provided a great context for how to create loyal followers and build social engagement. Since 2009, I've presented the nine immutable laws to thousands of marketers live, and the online version of the presentation has been viewed nearly 50,000 times on SlideShare. And yet, I've always felt that there was something missing.
I've always planned on introducing a 10th immutable law of social media marketing — a law that would supersede all of the social media marketing laws. Galvanize the other laws into action, even. Well, I'm pleased to introduce you to the 10th immutable law of social media marketing: In a cluttered, evolving social media sphere, "REALationships" are the key to results.
While to some this law may seem simple, through my research over the last few years I've come to the conclusion that this one concept — building relationships — is often low on the totem pole of the social media marketer's agenda. Often we think of the concept of engagement (e.g., a like, share, retweet, etc.) as a real relationship. I'm not knocking engagement (it's No. 1 of the nine laws), but there's a deeper level. Here are a few reasons why social media marketing in 2015 needs to change, as well as some ideas around how to build lasting, empowered relationships via social media:
1. "But we ARE building relationships!" To be clear, whenever I bring up the subject of building relationships via social media, many marketers disagree. Some even get argumentative with me about the subject (me thinks they doth protest too much). So let's step back for a minute and discuss the current state of social media marketing. I've spent a lot of time researching social media, and this is what I've found.
2. Competition for hearts and minds is fierce. In 2015, nearly every business has some sort of social media presence. You're competing with big and small businesses alike, from big-box retailers to mom-and-pop stores to online-only retailers. Early adopters of social media found engagement to be easier, thus it was more effective at building relationships. Today, we're bombarded with business messages from everywhere (and a lot of them aren't so good).
3. Social decluttering is here, and it's a moving target. Facebook is leading the way in decluttering your feeds. As of this writing, Facebook has once again changed its feed algorithm to downplay (translation: not serve up) overly promotional posts by business pages. Much has been already written about this subject, so I won't go into the details; just know that if your posts are promotional in nature, they'll need to be boosted (paid!) in order to reach your fans.
Beyond that, your posts in all social media channels face great competition. Everybody is in the game looking for the same results that you are.
4. Social is becoming "pay for play." As a public company, Facebook is seeking new ways to provide return on investment and shareholder value. One of those ways is to monetize the news feed — i.e., you have to pay to reach your own followers. I'm not a fan, but until companies protest en masse, it won't (and likely never will) change. Other social networks either already have or will soon follow suit. Want to reach your followers in 2015? Be ready to pay.
5. It's all been said, done and posted before. We've all seen the caption contests, giveaways, etc., on social sites. It's now been six years since I did my first Facebook contest and gave away my first product freebie. While the strategy still works somewhat, these days much of what we see on social sites seems the same. Lots of SSDD (same stuff, different day) is going on and cluttering our feeds.
6. Don't be an information pusher (part one). I'm guilty of this as well. I'm constantly pushing out content (either my own or sourced) in an attempt to reach my followers. Marketers are encouraged to share content they like in search of the Holy Grail — the like, favorite, retweet, pin, etc. Of course, this creates a vicious circle with content going round and round without any real engagement and relationship building.
7. Don't be an information pusher (part two). Much of the content brands create is ultimately self-serving. The goal of content marketing is to build credibility and trust, and ultimately gain new customers. Brands create and share this content daily. Much of it isn't engaging. After all, how many "5 Simple Tips to blah, blah, blah" posts can we actually read in a given day? I read three posts this morning (shared two of them), but it's not even noon yet and I can barely remember what I shared, let alone the author/brand that wrote them.
8. Yeah, there's an app for that. Social media marketers are busy! They have tools (e.g., apps) to help them schedule posts, aggregate results, listen to their fans (and their competition), etc., all in order to save them precious time.
9. The rise of "anti-social media marketing." As I'm writing this article, I got a phone call from a company telling me it can take any business Facebook page and through some sort of whiz-bang algorithm it will tell you the best days, time of day and frequency to post along with what to post about. While that sounds incredibly beneficial to social media marketers, it also feels like cheating.
Using a tool like that, combined with a post scheduling tool like Hootsuite and some social listening tools, do you even have to visit your Facebook page? There are hundreds of free and paid tools on the market that allow you to save time and streamline your social media marketing workflow, but should you actually use them?
The Law of 'REALationships' in Action
Do you know Donna, Carol, Trevor, Josh and Tina? Yes, they're real people. They're fans of one of the Facebook pages I used to manage. They and hundreds of other "clients of my clients" are my personal Facebook friends. They're connected to me and to each other. We've all become friends. I know about their lives, they know about mine. We talk frequently! And they were all loyal clients of that company (until major management and policy shifts drove most of them away, which is another story for another day).
So here's my point: If you aren't in "the trenches," how can you be successful at social media? In today's harried, cluttered, automated, reshared age of social media, it's time to get back to basics. I feel a backlash starting to happen. Smart marketers are actually ignoring the tools and going back onto their pages, feeds, etc., and building relationships again. I know I do it, and I've reaped the benefits.
How it Works
In order for engagement to happen and sales to be generated (the Holy Grail all marketers seek), you need to build relationships. Engaged fans have a relationship with you, the level of which determines your results. By you I mean both the brand and the marketer who manages the brand's social media accounts. Of course they can be one in the same, but for this example think of the brand's mouthpiece as someone who is basically a relationship builder.
Every time you get a like or share or retweet, it's an opportunity for a contact of a more personal nature — e.g., a simple "thanks for sharing" message. Don't automate it, however. Add a personal statement like, "Thanks Barry for sharing my 9 Immutable Laws presentation. How is your social program working?" Remember, you have the opportunity to seek out your followers and make them feel special.
It's kind of simple actually. And yes, while building REALationships is time consuming, by bucking the automation trend you'll reap many rewards and hopefully gain new and fiercely loyal customers. Heck, you may even make some new friends along the way!
Jim Gilbert is the founder and CEO of multidiscipline direct marketing agency Gilbert Direct Marketing, as well as the president of the board of directors of the Florida Direct Marketing Association. Jim can can be reached at email@example.com.
Jim Gilbert has had a storied career in direct and digital marketing resulting in a burning desire to tell stories that educate, inform, and inspire marketers to new heights of success.
After years of marketing consulting, Jim decided it was time to “put his money where his mouth was" and build his own e-commerce company, Premo Natural Products, with its flagship product, Premo Guard Bed Bug & Mite Sprays. Premo in its second year is poised to eclipse 100 percent growth.
Jim has been writing for Target Marketing Group since 2006, first on the pages of Catalog Success Magazine, then as the first blogger for its online division. Jim continues to write for Total Retail.
Along the way, Jim has led the Florida Direct Marketing Association as their Marketing Chair and then three-term President, been an Adjunct Professor of Direct and Digital marketing for Miami International University, and created a lecture series, “The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing,” which he has presented across the country at conferences and universities.